Martial flies in ‘to seal Manchester United move’

The 19-year-old striker has been given leave by Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps to travel to England to finalise the details of a move to Old Trafford

Martial flies in 'to seal Manchester United move'

Manchester United appear to be closing in on a deal for Monaco striker Anthony Martial after the French Football Federation confirmed the 19-year-old had left the national team in order to travel to England.

Signing a new striker is Louis van Gaal’s top priority before the close of the English transfer window on Tuesday, with Javier Hernandez widely reported to be in advanced talks with Bayer Leverkusen.

And Martial, who scored nine goals in 35 Ligue 1 appearances for Monaco last season and was linked with Tottenham this summer, has risen to the top of United’s wishlist after Chelsea snatched unsettled Barcelona forward Pedro from Van Gaal’s grasp earlier this month.

A statement from the FFF read: “Anthony Martial was presented Monday at 11:00 at the gathering of the France team at Clairefontaine. He requested from Didier Deschamps permission to travel to England to sign a contract with Manchester United.

“Given the exceptional circumstances, the coach has acceded to the request of the player.

“Anthony Martial left Clairefontaine Monday at 12:00. He will return on Tuesday morning.”

Martial has come to be regarded as one of Ligue 1’s brightest attacking talents since joining Monaco from Lyon in the summer of 2013 and has represented France at every youth level.

He would become United’s sixth signing of a busy summer, joining Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sergio Romero and Matteo Darmian at Old Trafford.

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Wolfsburg’s Allofs frustrated by Premier League’s financial muscle

The German sporting director bemoaned Germany’s lack of television money but was happy with the club’s Champions League draw

Wolfsburg's Allofs frustrated by Premier League's financial muscle

Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs has suggested the recent Premier League television deal has skewed the balance of power financially in Europe.

Last season’s Bundesliga runners-up look set to lose star man Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City in the next few days, as the English club demonstrate their financial capabilities once more with what Allofs described as an “astonishing” offer.

Following the relaxation of Financial Fair Play rules, City have brought in Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi in recent months, with a host of Premier League rivals also making the most of bumper TV money.

Asked whether clubs who receive such financial incomes were set to dominate European football, he told reporters: “If they do things right, yes.

“One thing is for sure, the last team in the Premier League get more money than [Bundesliga champions] Bayern Munich.

“This is the situation. But this is the big task for our football league – to get more money from television.

“We have to compete with that and hopefully we can.”

The DFB-Pokal holders were drawn with Manchester United, PSV and CSKA Moscow in Group B at the UEFA Champions League draw in Monaco on Thursday, and Allofs thinks that the group is manageable for the German side.

“I think we can say it is a good draw. There were groups that were much more difficult,” he added.

“We did well last season, we finished second in the Bundesliga and we won the cup, so we are very optimistic to go through to the next round.

“All the teams in our group have international quality. But it isn’t impossible to qualify for the next round.

“I think Manchester United is our main rival, but Eindhoven as well. Moscow knocked out Sporting, so that’s not so easy.

“We have to improve ourselves in comparison to our Europa League season last year. But I think it is manageable. We are looking forward to the Champions League.”

Messi should win Ballon d’Or – Bartomeu

The Barcelona president says that the Argentina international deserves to reclaim the award from Cristiano Ronaldo

Messi should win Ballon d'Or - Bartomeu

Lionel Messi is the world’s best player and deserves to win this year’s Ballon d’Or, according to Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Messi was named Uefa Player of the Year for the second time following a final vote during the Champions League draw in Monaco on Thursday.

The 28-year-old broke Telmo Zarra’s record for La Liga goals scored in the 2014-15 campaign and went on to find the back of the net 58 times in all competitions.

Bartomeu backed the Argentina captain to add a prestigious fourth Ballon d’Or to his collection of honours, having been beaten to the award by Cristiano Ronaldo in the past two years.

“Lionel Messi is the best player in the world and we know that he desires, he works, he makes a lot of effort in all the matches and his confidence is incredible,” Bartomeu said.

“That’s why they give him a trophy like the best player of Europe. As for the Ballon d’Or, well, Leo Messi is the best player in the world so it’s normal that he wins everything.”

Bartomeu lauded Messi for his role in Barca’s successful 2014-15 campaign, which included 43 league goals, 10 in the Champions League and five in the Copa del Rey.

The Blaugrana supremo now hopes that the European champions can add the Club World Cup to their trophy cabinet in December.

“The important thing is the feature of Leo Messi. He’s doing this year an incredible season,” Bartomeu said.

“We won of course the Copa del Rey, Liga, the Champions League and the European Super Cup. And now we have the Club World Cup and I hope we can win this and have five titles this year.”

Messi: I never said I’d quit Argentina

The Barcelona forward has hit out at local media after his Copa America disappointment led to suggestions he would take a break from the international game

Messi: I never said I'd quit Argentina

Lionel Messi has hit out at reports he was set to take a break from international football after failing to lift the Copa America with Argentina earlier this year.

The Barcelona star faced intense criticism from some in the local media after the Albiceleste captain saw his side go down to hosts Chile on penalties in the final, with some going as far as suggesting he take extended leave from the national team.

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino backed the Barcelona forward but admitted he himself would have walked away were he subject to the sort of abuse that was directed at Messi.

“I never said that I wasn’t going to play any longer with the national team,” Messi told ESPN Radio.

“[The media] can’t kill me any more than they already have.

“I am used to them saying these types of things. Now we have friendlies and as long as the coach calls me up I am going to continue to be present.”

Messi, 28, was included in Martino’s squad to face Bolivia and Mexico in the United States next month.

The four-time Ballon d’Or winner has hit 46 goals in 103 internationals, leaving him just 10 strikes behind his country’s all-time top goalscorer, Gabriel Batistuta.

Messi has claimed an Olympic Gold medal and an Under-20 World Cup title but Argentina are without a major trophy at senior level since Copa America 1993.

Barcelona to rebuff Man Utd interest by offering Neymar bumper new deal

The Brazilian has attracted interest from Old Trafford in the last few days, but the Catalans have no intention of selling and the 23-year-old is set for a lucrative new contract

Barcelona to rebuff Man Utd interest by offering Neymar bumper new deal

Barcelona are to offer Manchester United target Neymar a new contract and pay rise to end summer speculation and secure the forward’s long-term future, Goal understands.

United made an enquiry about the Brazilian in their negotiations to try and sign Pedro, but Barca are not considering a sale and will make Neymar the club’s best-paid player after Lionel Messi, who takes home around €22 million per year after tax, to tie the player down until 2020.

The 23-year-old’s current contract expires in 2018 and former president Sandro Rosell promised the Brazilian he would be offered a new deal in 2016.

Rosell resigned in January last year due to controversy over how the player’s move from Santos was paid for, but his successor Josep Maria Bartomeu – who took over and was elected again in July – is set to offer the renewal ahead of schedule after United’s recent interest.

Gary Neville is right – Wenger’s arrogance will cost Arsenal the title

The former Manchester United defender has attacked the Gunners’ “naive or arrogant” transfer policy since their last Premier League title in 2004 – and with justification

Gary Neville is right - Wenger's arrogance will cost Arsenal the title

Arsene Wenger bristled when he was informed of Gary Neville’s stinging criticism of Arsenal’s “naive or arrogant” transfer policy in the 11 years since they last won the Premier League title.

But the Gunners manager would be better off taking Neville’s criticism on board and examining it in more detail – because the former Manchester United defender is spot on with his assessment.

Arsenal still have 35 matches to correct their shaky start to the season, but in their first three games Wenger’s side have looked miles away from winning the title.

Neville’s argument is that Wenger falsely clings on to a belief that Arsenal can return to the top with only technical players and that they have never replaced the physical dominance of the likes of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto.

Few Arsenal fans could disagree having watched so many lightweight performances since the ‘Invincibles’ tore opponents apart on a weekly basis in 2003-04.

In the interim, Wenger has tried to copy the model of Spain and Barcelona by relying on flair players.

When it clicks, it looks brilliant, yet they cannot grind out results in the same way as their more physical title rivals like Chelsea and Manchester City.

Wenger strives for a utopia in which the Londoners can simply outplay their opponents every week. It is never going to happen and it’s not how you win the league. Santi Cazorla can buzz around all he likes, but he needs an imposing figure next to him when the going gets tough.

Ignoring the opposition might have worked for the ‘Invincibles’ but not only did they have the physical prowess that Neville cites, they were so good that they could play how they wanted.

It is naive to think that the current Arsenal team will always pass their opponents off the pitch.

It is arrogant to believe that Arsenal can win the league this season by signing only a goalkeeper after they finished 12 points behind the champions last term.

You could sense that attitude had crept through to the squad over the summer, too. After the players spoke about something “special” happening throughout pre-season, they were caught cold by West Ham on the opening day.

Wenger admits his side have made a “very average” start to the season with four points from their first three matches already leaving them six points behind City. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when you consider that Arsenal have the same outfielders as last season while City have improved their already superior squad.

Arsenal’s title challenge was blown apart long before Christmas last year after a poor start to the campaign and supporters will dread history repeating itself. It has happened too many times in recent seasons.

So how does Wenger plan to turn it around in the remaining week of the transfer window?

Wenger insists that he is only in the market for “exceptional” players to improve his squad and that is understandable in many respects.

The lack of top class strikers in world football means the club have focused on Karim Benzema as their main forward target this summer, with few alternatives that can provide a guaranteed upgrade on Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck.

But Wenger also turned his nose up at the £25 million pricetag for Morgan Schneiderlin earlier in the summer when the French midfielder could add the physicality and experience that Neville talks about. There are others out there who can do a similar job such as Grzegorz Krychowiak at Sevilla, who has been strongly linked with a move to north London.

“I can’t think of a word to describe that bunch – I could but it wouldn’t be usable on television,” Neville said about the Arsenal squad.

“They’re certainly not what I would call what you want to win you a league, the powerful characters, the strength you need running through your team.

“I just cannot get my head around why he would not sign players of power to assist these talented players you’ve got to enable them to win the league.

“It is the one big, if you like, black mark against Arsene Wenger in these last 10 years… to me it’s arrogance – to think that you are not going to adapt your team to impact on the other teams you’re playing against. It is either naivety or arrogance because they keep losing this way.”

Wenger has an enormous transfer budget – up to £80m – and he should be more ruthless, too. While Per Mertesacker is a good player and a great leader, there are plenty of central defenders out there that would improve Arsenal’s starting XI.

Petr Cech is an exceptional signing and showed why with two magnificent saves in the goalless draw with Liverpool on Monday night.

It is naive and arrogant, though, to think that Cech’s arrival alone will be enough for Arsenal to win their first title since 2004.

Mourinho on Pedro debut: It wasn’t quite Maradona, but it was close

The midweek arrival from Barcelona scored one and assisted another on his first outing for the Premier League champions, drawing special praise from his new manager

Mourinho on Pedro debut: It wasn't quite Maradona, but it was close

Jose Mourinho has compared Pedro to Diego Maradona after the new signing played a key role in Chelsea‘s first Premier League win of the season.

The £21 million arrival from Barcelona opened his account after less than 20 minutes, before assisting Diego Costa as the champions held off a resilient West Brom side to win 3-2 at the Hawthorns on Sunday.

Mourinho admitted to concern over how quickly Pedro would adapt to Premier League football, having spent his entire professional career with Barca, but never doubted the 28-year-old’s ability.

“He wasn’t quite Maradona but he was close,” Mourinho told Chelsea TV. “He’s a very good player. There is always a question mark because of how many top players come to England and don’t perform immediately.

“We have examples in our club and there are lots of examples at other clubs, so it’s very nice for him to come and straight away perform the way he did.

“I expected him to perform like that because he had a good pre-season, and he played three competitive matches. He came with minutes, with intensity, so it was not a question of intensity and condition, it was a question of understanding.

“We worked tactically every day since he arrived for him to try to understand the team and for the team to try to understand what he wants and needs. It was a very good performance.”